Trump has named David Friedman as his choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel:
David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City, served Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East. He has set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
He has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards.
Trump has made a very bad choice here, but unfortunately it is entirely in line with what we thought we knew about his positions on Israel and Palestine. He has made no secret of his pro-settler views, and he has adopted virtually every conventional hawkish “pro-Israel” position from his support for settlements to hostility to the nuclear deal with Iran. Choosing Friedman is consistent with the generally hard-line, pro-settler positions Trump has already taken, and so it may be the least surprising thing he’s done during the transition.
This is just the latest development in the ongoing transformation of the GOP into a radically hard-line “pro-Israel” party that goes beyond what it was during the Bush years. The Republican Party platform this year was changed to remove any reference to a two-state solution. The platform plank also rejected the accurate description of Israel as an occupier, affirmed the destructive idea that there should be “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, and weirdly defined support for Israel as an “expression of Americanism.” Like many other Republicans, Trump has talked about moving the embassy to Jerusalem, but unlike most Trump seems to be intent on going through with it despite the enormous diplomatic problems that would be likely to cause the U.S. Assuming Friedman can be confirmed, his nomination suggests that it might actually happen.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but none of this serves U.S. interests and certainly has nothing to do with putting American interests first. Moving the embassy will inflame the situation in the region, needlessly antagonize Palestinians, potentially provoke violence against Israeli and American targets, and pointlessly harm relations with practically every majority-Muslim country in the world. It could put our diplomats there and at other posts around the world in greater danger, and it would provide additional fodder for jihadist propaganda. There will be significant political and diplomatic costs for the U.S. if the embassy is moved, and it will gain us nothing except more and deeper hostility across much of the world. Obviously it would make a mockery of the pretense that the U.S. is or ever could be an “honest broker” in the conflict, and would declare an even closer conflation of U.S. and Israeli interests to our detriment and ultimately to theirs as well.